Championship Amateur Conjecture – The Leads On Leeds

Leeds now begin a run of six home games in the next eight GWs, with the two away fixtures in this sequence being against defensively leaky duo Millwall (GW21) and Tottenham (GW23).

Understandably now, Leeds assets will now be popular purchases in the coming weeks, with those already on board the striker double up of Alan Smith and Mark Viduka potentially in an especially strong position.

However, it’s two other attacking options who I wish to focus on for this week’s opinion – Harry Kewell and Ian Harte.

Only Viduka and Rio Ferdinand can trump Kewell’s 1,366 minutes from within the Leeds ranks so far, with his ability to play in central midfield, attacking midfield and even as a striker all helping to ensure he barely misses out in the battle for starts under Martin O’Neill.

The Australian’s goal and 10-point contribution in the GW16 2-0 home success over Watford, alongside his versatility, may also have pushed Kewell towards the top of many managers’ future transfer lists.

But for those considering it this week, leak provider Luke may have thrown out a hint that Kewell doesn’t start.

The leak by itself doesn’t instantly give much away, as the revelation was that Robbie Keane starts in the attacking midfield role for the attractive home game with Leicester. 

This is nothing out of the unusual and not instinctively a leak to set alarm bells ringing. But that’s what concerns me. Luke doesn’t just provide a random bit of team news, there will be an interesting development that has led him to leak what he has.

With Keane in midfield and Michael Bridges injured, that makes it fairly guaranteed that Smith and Viduka will be paired in attack again. Therefore, if Keane’s leak has meaning, it’s probably in the two central midfield roles.

Given that Kewell is the most nailed of those who can occupy these positions, my judgement is that he isn’t playing. Leeds are far from short of options in this department either, despite Olivier Dacourt being injured,

David Batty, Lee Bowyer, Eirik Bakke and Stephen McPhail will all be on the roulette wheel to start and Leicester are reputation 12, so picking which pairing will play is close to impossible. But I’m quite confident that it won’t be Kewell.

Something like this from GW12 is more than possible.

As for Harte, trying to work out which games he starts and which games he loses out to Harpel Singh doesn’t seem to follow any set pattern.

However, there do seem to be signs now that Harte has become the first choice in the left wing back role. In the first 11 GWs, Harte started five times. Since, he has started in five of the last six. This is somewhat similar to Robert Pires at Arsenal, who only started in four of the first 10 GWs, but has then started every league fixture since.

Although there are some positions at particular teams when rotation will always be more rife, largely because there is more competition for the role and the players competing for these roles are not so easily separated on reputation and ability, after a portion of the season it does seem that who is the first choice becomes more known.

This has happened with Pires and it’s worth noting that one of his recent starts was down the left and the remainder down the right. Unlike Harte, he benefits from being more versatile, so if the AI managers do decide to give someone else a game down the Arsenal right, Pires is still in the reckoning to play in CM or down the left.

It seems to have happened with Harte too and given Leeds’ strong fixture run over the next eight GWs, he has many avenues to big points. 

Leeds have only conceded four goals in their eight home games so far, so some clean sheets look reasonable to expect and in the 10 games Harte has started, he has only accumulated 2 points or less once.

He already has 15 and 17-point hauls at home to Millwall and Newcastle respectively, and the likes of Leicester, Man City, Bolton and Sunderland visiting Elland Road in the coming week provides the potential of similar hauls.

Here he is playing against Millwall in our sim, getting a clean sheet, playing 3 key passes and having 4 shots.

Harte has penalties and free kicks in his armoury to go alongside the clean sheet potential, while the Leeds team is not blessed with CBs who dominate the bonus points like they do at other clubs. This means his chances of bonus are also improved.

Given Harte looks more likely to start now than not, he is an intriguing purchase over this run of games and is a viable captain option alongside the premium strikers and Juan Sebastian Veron. At least if you captain him, you maximise any hauls he does get and if he loses out on the left wing back lottery to Singh, you may be lucky that your captain transfers to your vice instead.

Food for thought.

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